The Ottumwa Courier

AP Sports

March 4, 2014

Ukrainian team united despite turmoil at home

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — With the country in turmoil, Ukraine's national football team says it is united in its belief of "indivisibility."

The Ukrainians are scheduled to face the United States in a friendly on Wednesday in Cyprus, a match moved from Kharkiv to Larnaca for security reasons.

Ukrainian team spokesman Alexander Glyvynskyy conveyed the players' collective concern over developments at home on Monday, and stressed that the players — who come from all over the country — are united.

Despite threats to cancel the match, Ukraine football association president Anatoliy Konkov said Tuesday the game would go ahead.

"(We) reached a consensus to play the USA after all," Konkov said in a statement that also praised the American team. "(They) stood behind us to protect the national interests and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

The match, which will be played at Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium, is a key warm-up for the United States ahead of this year's World Cup. But for Ukraine, which failed to qualify for the tournament in Brazil, it will serve as preparation for the qualifying tournament for the 2016 European Championship.

Ukraine coach Mykhailo Fomenko said he expects Wednesday's game to be similar in style to a Premier League match, since many of the American players play for English clubs.

All of them will be looking for a spot on the World Cup squad.

"This game is a huge opportunity, mainly for our European-based players, for those guys to prove to us that they are eager and hungry to jump on the train to the FIFA World Cup," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said.

Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium has hosted many of Cyprus' international matches, but it's not the Mediterranean island's top football venue. The GSP Stadium in Nicosia, however, is unavailable because Cyprus is hosting Northern Ireland in another friendly.

It's the second time in recent weeks that Cyprus has been selected as an alternate venue for a match involving a Ukrainian team. Last month, a Europa League match between Dynamo Kiev and Valencia was moved to the Cypriot capital.

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